\"Taking

Taking in the sights and sounds at Gaelic Park in the Bronx as New York and Mayo compete on the pitch. Photo by: Jim Lowney

Waking to spring and celebrating the Irish community in Gaelic Park

\"Taking

Taking in the sights and sounds at Gaelic Park in the Bronx as New York and Mayo compete on the pitch. Photo by: Jim Lowney

April was a quiet, sleepwalking month of rain though I’m sure things Irish bloomed around the Garden State while I dozed.
 
The cobwebs were shaken off this big Paddy head at the dawn of May.
 
Memory recalled being in Dublin for Ireland’s first official May Day holiday twenty years ago and making a picture of bungee jumping in Great Georges Street in the heart of the city that was part of the celebration.
 
While not as daring, it was time here and now to jump out and back into the swing of things.
 
The Governor Christie crowd wasn't messing about with the masses crossing the George Washington Bridge May’s first Sunday so Honey Badger and I chanced a journey from Jersey high over the Hudson to Gaelic Park in the Bronx.
 
There was good reason for this son of Mayo to make the trek. And the wife was kind enough to put up with me even though it was her birthday weekend.
 
The Mayo football team doesn’t come to America every day!
 
The traffic was light and reasonable. Once I found the stadium all went well, with free parking to boot.
 
We settled at a broken plastic picnic table next to the grill roaring with burgers and friers producing chicken fingers, sausages and chips.
 
Having never been to Gaelic Park before for some odd reason I hadn’t a clue what to expect.
 
The place was very much itself, like no place else. It is old but carries its age as legacy, as history.
 
The pitch is perfect with the 1 train parked on the rails above the scoreboard with the tricolor and stars and stripes flying before the subway cars. Only in New York.
 
Over thinking, as I often do, we arrived mad early. Honey Badger wasn’t looking thrilled with little happening at the start of the visit.
 
But my eyes and ears were ablaze with the people watching and listening to the song of the place.
 
I might as well have been in Castlebar.
 
Save the subway cars behind the score board, we were in Ireland. The community of Ireland, anyway.
 
Every other soul wore the green and red jersey of Mayo.
 
The accents were as rich and thick as the land from which they came.
 
The Sam Maguire was there as well, with folks queued up for a picture with the victory cup.
 
Old friends were found, too. Lads I used to serve pints to twenty-five years ago on First Street in Hoboken made the trip to the game with their kids in tow.
 
Then there were conversations with new faces as we chatted with the couple from Belmullet just in for the weekend. They had never been to America before.
 
Thousands packed the park, taking every seat possible. Abandoning our broken table, we took to the fence behind the net as pipers and anthems sounded before play.
 
Then Mayo was coming at us fast and furious.
 
Watching Gaelic football at ground level reminds you of how quick and physical the game is.
 
The New York team was respectable enough in the first half but were sure to be no match for the lads who just flew in from the west of Ireland.
 
Thrilled with our taste of Mayo, Honey Badger and I headed back over the Hudson before the Yankees game let out, back to Jersey, now wide awake in the spring seeing Ireland in America again.

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